“The Tale of Despereaux”

We just got back from the movies, where I was privileged to be in attendance at our two-year-old grandson’s first full-length motion picture. He was completely absorbed for the whole 90 minutes, like everyone else reaching for popcorn and stuffing it in his mouth while his eyes were glued to the big screen.

We watched “The Tale of Despereaux,” and I recommend it. It’s a computer-animated literary fairy tale about a mouse who refuses to cower and a rat who developed a taste for fine food and so refuses to eat garbage. (Think of the symbolism!) It’s on the serious side, rather than comic, with a rather complicated plot. But it’s good, celebrating the chivalric virtues of “honor, courage, and justice.” And what it takes to be a “gentleman.” How sad it is that those very words seem anachronistic today. The movie also celebrates the Christian virtue of forgiveness. Sammy and I give it two thumbs up.

Cool Christmas presents

So what did you get for Christmas? In addition to many thoughtful and useful gifts I received, I got one of the coolest presents since that Daisy BB gun I got as a kid on a Christmas eerily reminiscent of “The Christmas Story.” My wife gave me a MACHETE! Coming with a sheath so that I could wear it all day, the machete satisfies my interest in swords. And I hacked through the jungle-like tangled underbrush of our dead garden in about five minutes!

Did any of you get any unusual or cool or unique-to-your-quirks Christmas presents?

Happy Boxing Day

Other English-speaking lands celebrate the day after Christmas as Boxing Day. It’s a day to give gifts to the people who serve you. First it was servants, when even the middle class had servants, but then it extended to others, including pastors. Sounds like another holiday about vocation! A day to be thankful for the vocation of others who love and serve you as their neighbor. Let’s bring Boxing Day to America! Go here for a nice site dedicated to the Christian observance of Boxing Day.

UPDATE: Bruce Gee reminds us that it is also St. Stephen’s Day. Which means that today is the day we should sing “Good King Winceslas,” who went out not on Christmas but on “the Feast of Stephen,” and there, where the snow was deep and crisp and even, he met a poor man and brought him inside, thereby celebrating Boxing Day!

Peace on Earth in India after all

We had some posts about the persecution of Christians in Orissa, the state in India, and the prospect that an all-day shutdown on Christmas, as pushed by Hindu extremists, would mean more atrocities against Christians, such as that 11-year-old girl we wrote about who forgave those who burned her face. But the government called off the shutdown and sent police in force to keep order. Once again, civil government, under Romans 13, does what it’s supposed to do.

The Yule Blog

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will have no posts about economics, politics, or cultural woes. We will just contemplate and celebrate the incarnation of God.

I always find it odd that so many Christians, even, tend to think of God as an abstraction or as someone gazing down from up above. As if He had not come down from Heaven to share our humanness, to suffer with us, to redeem us.

It makes a huge difference to believe in a God who became man. It’s how Christians are different from Muslims and from Deists. Consider the problem of evil. How could God allow so many evils and so much pain in the world? This is a stumbling block to non-believers, and even Christians, of course, often struggle with this questions. But the question assumes a particular view of God, that He is purely transcendent and detached from His creation. But if God became flesh in Jesus Christ, this complicates the question profoundly. This is a God who Himself suffered at the hands of evil men, who Himself experienced physical and emotional pain, who on the Cross was tortured, abandoned, and despaired. More than that, He bore the full brunt and consequences of human evil. He also bore the afflictions of the whole world throughout history. Jesus, true God and true Man, is Immanuel, “God with us.”

So today we will exult in God becoming Man. Helping us will be some poems by G. K. Chesterton. Read these poems. Even if you don’t like poetry, I’d bet you will like these. (Chesterton did not write poems to be puzzles you have to untangle. He is lucid, not obscure.) Then comment on anything in the poems that you found profound, moving, or enlightening. Interspersed with the poems will be other posts about Christmas. So have a blessed Christmas, and my prayer is that this blog will help you to that end!

“The Wise Men”

by G. K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly … it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(… We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.